NEW Giant Trance 29er: Long-Term Review

I’ve been on the new Giant Trance 29er for 9 months and it’s time for a review.

The Trance 2019 29er 1 in all its glory

This bike is long-awaited from Giant, and is their first try at a progressive–or at least 2019 standard–29er mountain bike.

It looks good on paper, and I put this bike through the ringer in XC, Enduro, hike-a-bikes and full-on DAQ.

Here’s the story.



This bike is a far cry rom the first-generation Trance, but it ticks a lot of the same boxes. The original Trance from 2005 had 100mm of travel front and rear, and was designed as a kind of do-it-all bike. I used that bike for a lot of my trail rides at the time, and even used it in a 24 hour race where I sprinted to second overall [yes, a sprint after 24+ hours!]. Back then there were very few dropper posts around, and I didn’t have one. The bike was also not that different from my Anthem XC bike, albeit a little slacker in the headtube.

And of course, the wheels were 26 inches.

Uh….sweet ride! The 2005 Giant Trance–I rode this one A LOT

But really, I loved the bike because I could do pretty much whatever riding I wanted on it.

And I fell in love with the idea of having one bike to do everything on.

And then in 2013, the original Trance 29er came out. This bike came out at the original peak of the 29er craze. The wheel size had just burst on to the scene, but nobody knew what to do with the bikes. At this time, the geometry of 29ers really was poor and the tyre choice was slim—and that’s when 29ers got a horrible reputation. The original Trance 29er was no exception to being horrible—this bike was too high, too short and too steep. I rode it pretty well in some local XC in Pennsylvania, but it was a pretty poor choice for my first EWS race in Whistler, BC. The bike felt good nowhere, and I went back to two bikes.

This is pretty much what I used for my first EWS in 2013. It was ugly [the bike and the race].

In 2015 though, I once again used a Trance Advanced 0 as my ONLY bike for the season. I used the same bike to ride to a top-10 overall at the 5-day Trans NZ Enduro as I did to win 2x XCO national series races in the Senior Men category, with the only thing changing being the tires. I sometimes changed the fork, too.

The bike had 27.5 inch wheels and was light enough for amateur XC with a pair of Racing Ralphs. The bike’s geometry for XC was very good with the fork travel reduced to 120mm, since this increased the headtube angle to ~68°. I actually loved the bike for XC since the pedalling platform was pretty good, even for 140mm in XC. Plus dropper posts were now the norm, so I felt like I could be really aggressive in XC races.

But for Enduro, the bike sucked. With 140mm up front, the bottom bracket was a bit high in combination with the relatively slack 67° headtube angle. This made the bike wash a bit when climbing, and I had to make a serious effort to stay over the front. It really took a lot of energy to climb.

And things were probably worse when descending, especially since the Trance SX was on offer, which had a longer travel, 160mm fork [and higher-still bottom bracket]. I went as high as 150mm in the front, but then the bike was so high that cornering was extremely clumsy. And even worse still, the top tube was a bit short, so straight line descending wasn’t that great either.

I started to lose hope in the quiver killer.

Was there one bike that existed that could do it all?

Then this year, the Trance 29er came out. Was this THE one?

On paper, it looked perfect. The headtube angle was an intermediate 66.5°, the bottom bracket met current standards, and the wheels were the right size.

I was pretty excited to see if this bike could be IT!

I’ve been waiting for this one. The bike, not the berms.


We need to get one thing straight: not everyone needs more travel. And that’s actually one reason I was excited to try the new Trance: with travel sitting at 110/130, I felt like this bike could make up where the trail bike couldn’t.

Yes, 160mm of travel is nice when you are going fast, but not every trail or every kind of terrain is fast. My home trails in Palmerston North, New Zealand were really fast, but when I wasn’t going flat out—or when the trail wasn’t pointing straight down a hill—the bike felt sluggish. So if I wanted a better all-around bike, I needed a bit less travel.

What is important, IMO, is geometry. With trails around the world getting fast[er] and flowy[er], we need longer wheel bases and slacker headtubes to feel safe. The slack headtube angle puts the wheel in front of us, and helps us to put our weight where we need it when we need it there. And a lot of times, good geometry can make up for having less travel.

So everyone might think they need a 65 degree head angle because this is what Pinkbike is saying, but at lower speeds on less-steep trails, a long and slack bike is a bit of a burden to maneuver. This made the trail bike I had pretty poor at XC, and not an ideal single bike for me.

And with less travel and a moderate headtube angle, I liked the looks of the Trance 29er.


So you might be like me: more travel might not be the answer for your riding style or local trails—especially if you want only one bike.

Is 130mm enough travel for you? This is actually the question I get the most! I would say that for most riders, this is plenty of bike. The geomtery is very good, and with short travel the bike is nimble enough to have fun on every kind of trail.

Read on to see how my thoughts.

Finally have those BrakeAce hats and tees available in MERCH!


I had recently been messing around with going a size up on my bikes, and decided again to go with a medium size Trance 29er 1. This stretched me out a little more, and the idea was that I could get my weight over the front end a bit better. I’m very glad I got the medium.

Out of the box, the bike felt great. I slammed the stem since the head tube length was a bit taller than I was expecting. Normally Giant uses the same headtube for a medium and a small, but now the medium shares the same head tube as the large. So even with the stem slammed, the bars are still a little higher than my saddle. I don’t actually notice it. I kept on the stock 40mm stem.

The seat tube is relatively steep, but to get the same feeling at the pedals I needed to push my saddle almost all the way back on the seatpost rails. I also tipped the nose of the saddle down a little to take the pressure off on our long climbs. Plus, once the bike settles in to its sag, the saddle is pretty much even anyway.

With this setup, the bike feels perfect to me!

The bike is a bit tall in the front end for me in photos, but I never felt like that was a bad thing!


On my first ride, I felt right at home on the bike. The bigger wheels did what they were supposed to and helped me feel planted and stable and felt great on the corners.

The wheels were really supported by the low bottom bracket, and I really felt in control all the time. The head tube angle put the front wheel where it needed to be, and with my fit I had a perfect amount of weight over the front.

We have some VERY steep trails in New Zealand, and I did start to get a bit worried since the geometry of the bike wasn’t as aggressive as my previous trail bike. I mean, at 66.5, the head angle is plenty slack, so why was I worried? I suppose it has a lot to do with the media telling us we NEED 160mm and a 65 degree headtube! But my worries were all put aside on my first ride on the technical terrain.

The Trance 29er about to drop in for some DAQ with the BrakeAce. This trail is Chewbacca in Palmerston North, NZ

We have one trail in particular that I was interested to try. This one cannot be named and is not meant for mountain biking. You can’t ride up the trail because it is far too steep—you must carry your bike. The views are amazing and the trail has no flow; it is difficult to say the least. Many a rider has approached the trail and walked more than one section on the way down.

So I took my brand new Trance 29er, pushed it took the top, and bit my nails nervously before dropping in.

But would you believe it if I told you I hit every line? That’s right, even on a super technical trail with lines I previously walked with [they really are THAT tech] a 160mm travel bike, I hit without even blinking on this short travel bike.

It was then that I knew that myself would be the only limiter on the Trance 29er.

And this is where I start to support short travel. The travel did not once limit me on a technical ride, nor on my local trails going really fast.

This is our steepest local trail. Here I am dropping in blind in the wet clay with the Brake Power Meter

The only time I started to feel really under-biked was on super fast AND super technical trails in Rotorua. These trails are pretty notorious, and my friends are really fast. So there were a few times and a few trails where I felt a bit under biked with the short travel. You can really only smash in to so many successive holes with 110mm of rear wheel travel before the bike starts to slow down and the suspension stops helping you.

But really, these trails and rides and super rough conditions were the exception rather than the norm, and I’ve been happy 95% of the time with my one bike.

Techgnar at MSA Canada. Even with a mid-meat XC tyre on a black trail, this bike felt great.

Climbing the Trance 29er was a treat. And we climb a lot in New Zealand. The geometry is balanced, and I never felt like I needed to lean overly forward, which saved me energy. There is no bob to speak of and I never even thought about pedal bob on the Trance 29er until now.


I also spent a lot of time riding the bike in Canada and the eastern USA. These trails are [relatively] slow and technical, and the bike felt great. It wasn’t too long, nor was it too slack nor too low…it was about as perfect as it could be.

First go down the famed La Beatrice with Brake Power Meter DAQ. I really wanted some meatier tyres, but the XC racers ride this with slicks!

Overall, the Trance was nimble, but confidence-inspiring and playful. It felt good going pretty fast and going pretty slow—and everything in between. When I need to bunnyhop, I can without the hardest all-out effort of my life…but still it feel great on steep, white-knuckle chutes.

And here’s where I reminisce on the original Trance and wish that they had been like this the whole time…


Enduro is still really popular, so let’s start there. I’ve done two endure races on the Trance 29er—one was our local Enduro with 20 minutes of descending over 6 runs, and the other was the 3-day NZ Enduro.

For our local enduro race, the bike was perfect. Even with only one gear. What can I say about the bike? I didn’t need anything else—and really I felt I would have been over-biked with any more travel. And of course, the one gear thing helps with pacing 🙂

For the NZ Enduro, the bike was, erm…interesting. This is well-known to be the most terrain to race on, and really I can’t imagine the trails being any more difficult to race on. The trails are very technical and very steep. And the conditions are diabolical if they get wet.

And it rained.

A lot.

No photo will ever show how amazing and hard the trails at the NZ Enduro really are. I wanted a bigger bike, but it wouldn’t have made it much easier.


I used full downhill Maxxis DHR II tyres, and they were a great choice. But the combination of being a little bit under-biked an equal amount under-skilled, and the bike just wasn’t a great choice.

I did have a few good stages—pulled off a 14th on one of them—but really, I just spent a lot of time off the trail climbing back up the bank. The damper in the suspension is not good enough to deal with a lot of friction at once, and after a while a 130mm trail fork is pretty much just a pogo stick—and the rear shock was probably suffering even more. Pogo sticks are probably not the greatest for control, especially over long stages and days.

So in that race, the bike was really not in its element.

But in XC, the bike was pretty good!

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